Alumni Relations

Lena Yarian

Photo of Lena Yarian

Lena Yarian

BSB '86

Lena Yarian is a Garrett native who attended Indiana University/Purdue University in Fort Wayne and received a degree in Business with a concentration in Communications.  She began her career with Junior Achievement of Northern Indiana in December of 1986 as Program Director of Applied Economics.  In fall of 1997, Lena became President of Junior Achievement of Northern Indiana.  

Junior Achievement is the world’s largest and fastest-growing organization dedicated to educating young people about financial literacy, workforce readiness and entrepreneurship.  Locally 7,000 individuals serve as JA classroom volunteers representing individual from all walks of life. The JA programs span pre-K through 12 with age appropriate curricula designed to teach elementary students about their roles as individuals, workers and consumers and to prepare middle grade and high school students for the key economic, personal finance and workforce issues they will face.

Junior Achievement of Northern Indiana serves over 135,000 students annually in 30 counties. 

Lena serves on Hospital Aid Foundation Board, Judy A Morrill Recreational Center Board, Timothy L Johnson Board and the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership. 

Q. How did you become interested in your field?

A. I had a former Junior Achievement employee turn me on to the company. They told me that there was an opening for Director of Applied Economics. The role was meant to go out and expand the 12th grade economics program. I was greatly influenced by Economics professor, John P. Manzer, who was a great advocate for Junior Achievement. Throughout my time, I took on more responsibility and progressively moved through different positions and finally became President, which I have been doing for 20 years. This organization tends to keep their leaders. My predecessor was here for 30 years before me so I had large shoes to fill. I had an amazing support system from JA to guide me. Paul Shaffer would call to give me advice. He would never tell me what to do, but he would tell me what he would do. You obviously have to listen to people like that because they are successful for a reason. At one point, Jim Johnston was Chair and we were looking for support and leadership for the organization. I was a novice in comparison to my predecessor. Jim took me to Ian Rolland and we said if Junior Achievement is going to succeed and grow, we need your support, and he said yes! That was a huge turning point. He became the next chairman of Junior Achievement and my mentor from that day forward.

Q. Favorite subjects at IPFW?

A. I remember taking economics and micro-economics. Statistics and micro were by far my hardest classes, but I always thought macro-economics was fun. If I could give anyone advice about classes, it would be you should always take accounting and pay attention! Everyone should have a clear understanding of this subject if they want to succeed.

Q. What is the best career advice you were given?

A.  If you get the opportunity to explore a new job, take it. Don't hold back. At JA, I want to see people 100% committed. If they explore a new opportunity that better suites them. That is terrific. But many times people find out that where they are working is pretty amazing and they stay and are more committed than ever.

Q. What surprised you most about IPFW?

A. I had such a great time while I was at IPFW. I was in a group, SUBOG, that you would now consider the Student Activities Board in the Student Government office. I helped plan a caravan of busses to Daytona beach, ski trips, a German-fest across the street at the Coliseum, hay rides, and so much more. The student union was the place to be with the sororities and fraternities and cafeteria all in the same building! I also don't think IPFW gets the credit is deserves for being such a terrific, high value education for a great price. 

Q. Where would you like to be in 10 years?

A. I would like to be working at Junior Achievement if they will still have me! I love giving kids the opportunity to learn. They only know what of which they have been exposed. They are an important investment as our kids will determine our future.